The research farms based at Gogerddan, Morfa Mawr, Trawsgoed and Pwllpeiran provide a unique research platform extending over 1,000 ha, from 0-600 metres above sea level. In 2017, we established an altitudinal challenge gradient on four sites on Gogerddan and Trawscoed farms at 70, 140, 250 and 340 metres above sea level. These four sites exploit the geography of West Wales to provide a spectrum of environmental challenges that are broadly representative of the growing conditions of approximately 80% of UK grasslands. The sites have been instrumented and planted using diverse germplasm and can all be visited for measurements within a single day. Datasets are integrated with those from controlled environment-based approaches to gain biological understanding of persistence, resilience and performance. These instrumented plots have allowed IBERS to participate in the ESFRI EMPHASIS project, a pan European network of climatically diverse research facilities, to enable predictive breeding and research into future climates. In addition, the plots are used in the BBSRC Core Strategic Programme in Resilient Crops, the H2020 GRACE project, and data is being used to inform the modelling of biomass productivity in the EPSRC Supergen Bioenergy Hub at Aberystwyth and by other partners.
In 2020, IBERS reinstated the original Upland Centre at Pwllpeiran by taking on the lease for 190 ha of the contiguous (Ffridd) land from Welsh Government following its purchase from Defra. This complements an earlier £2.4M investment from BBSRC to support the development of Pwllpeiran as an upland platform. Pwllpeiran has a long history of involvement in upland grassland research, and in the late eighteenth century was host to the radical agricultural experiments undertaken by Thomas Johnes of the Hafod Estate. In the early twentieth century it then became the centre of George Stapledon’s pioneering Cahn Hill Improvement Scheme. Pwllpeiran now provides a grassland continuum from relatively good quality reseeded pasture, through permanent pasture and semi-natural rough grazing, to heathland and blanket bog. A Calan Gate electronic feeding system for small ruminants (the only such facility in the UK), can house up to 48 sheep, and there is capacity for 4 methane measurement chambers. Pwllpeiran is a microcosm for upland areas and is the only such facility in England and Wales. Its research is crucial to ensuring a robust evidence base for policies at a time of unprecedented political, economic and environmental change.